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In Deep

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Maxine Kumin’s permanent residence is a small, self-sufficient New England farm. From her experiences, she has compiled a personal testament to the beauties and rigors of a life dependent upon nature.

Some selections of IN DEEP: COUNTRY ESSAYS record actual tasks of maintenance and survival: building fences, battling early fall frosts. Others offer instruction while revealing personal satisfactions: caring for the horses, foraging for mushrooms. All, however, attempt to make a life that is foreign extremely relevant, a charge Kumin accomplishes through language and personal insight.

Personal vision gives this book its lyrical quality and its greatest appeal. Kumin struggles not only with the forces of nature but also with the poet’s calling; these aspects of life connect with surprising ease. An owl appears “like a poem, unannounced.... Like the notes for a poem, he would not go away but merely swelled there passively all through breakfast.” “The poet, like the mule,” Kumin muses, “is sturdy enough to get by in reduced circumstances.”

In language at once reflective and poetic, nature’s magnetic pull is understood: a “little tongue of land that licked out into the pond” becomes a viewing ground for a nest of herons.

IN DEEP reveals a genuine commitment to poetry, to personal fulfillment, to nature. Although the author’s message of harmony in nature is delivered effortlessly, the process of achieving balance clearly requires both physical and mental efforts. “To get there,” one reads, “you have to go in deep.”